Kukla's Korner

The Sabres Observer

Myers Has His Game Back

The radio home of the Buffalo Sabres is running a website poll asking fans to pick the biggest reason for the turnaround of their team.  Your four choices are Ryan Miller, Terry Pegula, Brad Boyes (huh? He’s played 4 games here) and ‘Other’.

There’s a very prominent name missing from that list.  He just so happens to be the reigning Calder Trophy winner, and with 5 goals, 6 assists, a +7 rating and a massive attitude adjustment over his past 20 games, it’s time to officially declare that the real Tyler Myers has returned in full force.

Don’t just take my word for it.  The crowd in Philadelphia on Saturday designated Myers as the boobird recipient of the game.  Flyers fans know their hockey, and if you’re the guy who hears it from them every time you touch the puck, it’s a sign that you’ve finally arrived.

Sure, it definitely helps to have Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford playing like they’re on a mission, but defense is the Achilles heel of this version of the Sabres.  While Myers surprised the Buffalo brass last season and was like a luxury, this season he is a necessity.

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For Sabres, One Out Of Two Will Do

The Sabres are in Philadelphia this afternoon and Minnesota tomorrow night.  Lindy Ruff is playing coy again, but all signs point to Jhonas Enroth getting the start in goal today.

Buffalo (68 pts.) has four games in hand on the 7th place Rangers (72 pts.) and three on 8th place Carolina (71 pts.), so failing to overcome the Flyers today wouldn’t be a dealbreaker.  Their chances will be enhanced if Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford can snap out of their slumps.

Given the situation, two out of four possible points this weekend for the Sabres would be a big success.  With Ryan Miller having an off game two nights ago in Carolina, and with Buffalo facing an elite team in a hostile building today, this is a great spot to use Enroth.  You save your best guy for presumably the less difficult opponent to try locking up one win out of two.

Buffalo’s Jordan Leopold and Philly’s Jeff Carter are both questionable for this one.  Game time at the Wells Fargo Center is 1:00 EST.

Extra: WGR’s Paul Hamilton reports on how Tyler Myers has used physical play to help get his overall game back in order.

Update 12:04 pm: WGR reporting on the air that Ryan Miller will start today.  Ruff threw all of the media guys a curveball.  Enroth will play tomorrow at Minnesota.

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There’ll Be A Playoff Feel To This One

If you’re cruising the hockey dial tonight looking for games between Stanley Cup contenders, sure, you can see Tampa Bay vs. Boston or Detroit vs. San Jose.  But those teams really won’t have a whole lot on the line.

If you can’t wait six weeks for a taste of the excitement of playoff hockey, or at least as close to it as realistically possible in early March, then tonight’s game between the Carolina Hurricanes and Buffalo Sabres (7:00 PM EST, RBC Center) should do it for you.  Players on both teams are talking this one up for good reason.

The Sabres, who nine weeks ago were left for dead in 12th place in the East and ten points off the playoff pace, will finish the night in 8th place if they can win in regulation.  The Hurricanes are itching to create some separation.

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Miller Proving Critics Wrong, Again

Hard to believe, but its been almost three weeks since Ryan Miller gave up seven goals to the Islanders in that dreadful game that stirred up some emotions and spirited debate in Buffalo.

The smarter fans and media wanted to see the reigning Vezina Trophy winner have a game off.  The crazy ones wanted to have a discussion about trading him.

Since then, all Miller has done over seven consecutive games is compile a 1.85 GAA and .944 save percentage.  He allowed two goals or less in all of those games, and was selected as one of the three stars in five of them. 

His performance in last night’s 3-2 win, against an injury depleted New York Rangers team, amounted to highway robbery.

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Tales Of Three Teams

From David Shoalts of The Globe and Mail,

Luckily for the Sabres, their new owner, Terry Pegula, was given the NHL governors’ stamp of approval just in time for the league’s trade deadline on Monday. This turned the Sabres from sellers into buyers just in time to get Brad Boyes, keep Tim Connolly and stay in the hunt.

There might even be good news about the Thrashers, although it’s not entirely clear. A couple of groups agreed to zip their lips so they can look through the team’s books with an eye to buying Atlanta Spirit, the company that owns the Thrashers, the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and the Philips Arena.

Finally, if you like slow torture that never ends, the Phoenix Business Journal has the latest in the never-ending stories of the always-shaky Phoenix Coyotes/Glendale bond deal.

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Ruff Talks Boyes, Connolly, Goaltending

From WGR-550,

“I think we’re getting a creative offensive player that a couple years ago scored 30 and 40 goals. He can complement our offense and play 17, 18 minutes a game.”  Ruff named Boyes one of his top six forwards and he will play a big role on the power play as well.  “We’d like to use him in the slot area. We can use him on the unit with two lefties and use him on the slot or in front of the net like Vanek.”

Lindy Ruff also touched on the Sabres’ strategy before the NHL Trading Deadline and the decision to keep Tim Connolly.  “With the situation with Derek Roy not having our #1 center, without filling that hole with another player, we feel with Tim we can maintain the pace we are going at.”

more, including why Ruff thinks the Sabres have been better on the road than at home, when Ryan Miller will get his next game off, and an injury update on Derek Roy.

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Sabres Done Dealing

There won’t be any more deals announced by the Sabres today.

Their trade deadline prize, Brad Boyes, is expected to play on the wing on Tim Connolly’s line tomorrow night against the Rangers.

While the Boyes move is a good one for this team, it’s unfortunate that Buffalo was unable to land a capable defenseman.  Loose defensive play has been a major issue for the Sabres this season, although there was marked improvement during their recent six-game homestand.

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Some Quick Hits Re: Brad Boyes

As advertised, it’s buying time in Buffalo.  The Sabres gave up a 2nd round pick in the 2011 draft to acquire Brad Boyes (RW) from the St. Louis Blues.

Boyes has 12 goals and 29 assists for 41 points in 62 games this season.  He’s already the Sabres second leading scorer and has been on a good run with 3 goals and 19 assists in his last 24 games.

With Drew Stafford and Jason Pominville already on the right side, it will be interesting to see where he is slotted in the Buffalo lineup.  Sabres GM Darcy Regier could be picturing the 24th overall pick in 2000 as a center in Buffalo.

Boyes has one year remaining on a contract that has a salary and cap hit of $4 million in 2011-12.

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Repeat After Me, Buffalo: Responsible Spending

Just because your new in-laws gift you with a pile of money doesn’t mean you foolishly go on a binge and overspend it.  Sorry, but in regards to the Bruce Garrioch article stating that the Sabres “are a player” for Brad Richards or Paul Stastny, I’m just not buying it.

Did Garrioch spend more than a minute thinking this through, or did he just naively reach his own conclusions based on public knowledge that new owner Terry Pegula has given GM Darcy Regier the green light to buy?  One thing for sure is that his piece was based on personal speculation and not insider information.  Any reporter who has dealt with the Sabres tight-lipped front office in the past decade can attest to that.

With three more years and $20 million left on his contract, Stastny would command a higher salary than Ryan Miller.  And as great a player as Richards is, Regier has already made it pretty clear that he’s not interested in rentals.  Personally, based on the limitations of the current Sabres roster, I’m totally on board with that mentality.

During the big day tomorrow, Regier will be looking to add to his club through what he himself referred to as “responsible spending”.  Just to be clear, that doesn’t mean being limited to the Bob Corkum echelon of contracts.  It’s all about value investing, which is a simple cap-friendly concept that Regier will have a much greater opportunity to implement now that he has more purchasing power.

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Trade Deadline Reporting 2011 - Rumors, Insiders and Pretenders

(A year ago, I wrote a piece on false rumor reporting in the blog/twitter era.  Since then, some phonies have been weeded out of the interwebs and some haven’t.  Below is a modified and modernized version of the article for 2011.)

It may not be Monday yet, but our wild ride aboard the information overload speed train has already begun.  An inundation of data in a high tech world may force Internet Armageddon upon us.  If the brainiacs who helped us avoid the Y2K disaster over a decade ago can be found, then someone might want to try and round them up. 

Credible and respected hockey insiders, who we feverishly turn to for an endless supply of minute by minute trade deadline blog and twitter updates, are back at it again.

Unfortunately, thanks to the lack of barriers to entry into cyber reporting, so are the phony rumor mongering wannabees.

Welcome to hockey journalism in the post-web 2.0 world, where any half-literate dreamer, armed with only a keyboard and a seventh grade knowledge of spelling and sentence structure, can piggyback public updates from their favorite beat writers and disseminate them as scoops from “inside sources” to thousands of information-starved hockey fans.

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About The Sabres Observer

Dave Davis has covered the Buffalo Sabres for various NHL accredited websites and newspapers since 2003.  He was the senior writer and Sabres correspondent for The Fourth Period, covered hockey for Western New York Sports and Leisure Magazine, and has had articles featured on NHL.com, FOX Sports, Yahoo Sports and in New York Sportscene.  Sabres news and notes can be found on his Twitter page.

Davis originally garnered media attention in 2002 as leader of a lobbying campaign working in unison with potential buyer Mark Hamister attempting to secure state financing to keep the Sabres in Buffalo.  In 2004, Davis was briefly back on the airwaves - this time reaching the finals of the inaugural "WGR Rookie" sports talk competition.  After a few years of "syndicating" his articles on various sites, along with doing some internet radio work, Davis now devotes his new media efforts to bringing quality Sabres related opinions and content to Kukla's Korner.

Email: dd@kuklaskorner.com Twitter: [@DaveDavisHockey]

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